At Origins Game Fair, I played CHEW: The Roleplaying Game based on the Image Comics series of the same name. I signed up for an adventure entitled “FDA Case File: Cock Holster” GM’ed by Pete Petrusha from Imagining Games. However, as of this writing, that was in the future as Pete, Head Writer, Mitchell Wallace, and I did this interview about their CHEW RPGKickstarter pre-Origins. On that note, let’s get this party started!
EGG EMBRY (EGG): Thanks for talking with me about your new project. For those that never heard of CHEW, what it is?
PETE PETRUSHA (PETE): No, thank you for taking the time to interview us! With so many new games dropping each week, we really appreciate you giving us this spotlight. I don’t know how you do it! Mitch, would you like to describe the foodie crime drama that is CHEW: The Roleplaying Game?
MITCHELL WALLACE (MITCHELL): Should we trust a guy named Egg? I mean that is literally a terrorist organization in CHEW… [EGG’S NOTE: Spoiler warning, Mitch is onto me! Parents, warn your kins not to trust anyone named Egg!] In any case, CHEW is a clucked up world filled with cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals, and clairvoyants. It’s an absurd world where food powers have erupted and the FDA holds more power than any other law enforcement agency in the world. CHEW dives into the comic books written by John Layman and puts you in the shoes of someone working for or with the FDA as you unravel conspiracies while also dodging awkward Thanksgiving dinners.
EGG: A foodie RPG? What engine will it run on?
MITCHELL: Yes! Finally, you can combine your favorite food with your favorite pastime! Now there is no reason to not order pizza!
PETE: We’ve brought in the exceptionally talented Justin Ford of the Hacked in the Dark podcast, Mothlands, and the External Containment Bureau (ECB) to lead the design. With his help and knowledge of the best new innovations in Forged in the Dark games yet to come, we’ve prepared a real treat for you. Like any great fit, there are a ton of reasons why Forged in the Dark was a delectable pairing for CHEW. Comic book characters take risks and do desperate things. They need to excite the reader in a short amount of time. Forged in the Dark uses a conversation about position (level of risk) and effect (degree of success) to frame every action roll. Not only is this conversation a valuable lesson for new GMs and players finding RPGs for the first time, these are a great way to talk about the kind of action each player wants to bring to the table. What’s in their head and what they want that to look like at the game table. Being able to game design with levers on position and effect is a great way to play with the tension in the mechanics as we try to emulate the comics. For example, with playbook perks (abilities) we’re able to offer players more benefits to taking risks for greater rewards. All the description that comes with position and effect leads to fiction first play! The more you know about the world as a player, the more you can include it into every action you take. This is especially awesome with how dark and absurdly gory the twists of CHEW can be, we can go dark with descriptions as a GM, and players can resist those consequences. So, from dark horrible things to lighthearted and zany actions players always benefit from being more descriptive and are empowered to do the coolest things they can imagine.
MITCHELL: You can have your cake and eat it too and yah’ll know how much I enjoy the dark and absurd. This is a buffet of it.
EGG: “Buffet of it.” Awesome! I mention playing this game at Origins Game Fair 2021, but that’s in the future (this interview pre-dates Origins). In that light, let me ask about the playtesting, what has the reaction been like?
PETE: Incredible! Like the comics, the game has something for everyone. The game has an investigative base, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game is really about the quirky investigators and how they balance the troubles of their personal lives with the absurd world and tasks their jobs requires. The fiction first play style of Forged in the Dark rewards players for being descriptive and for incorporating more of their character traits and gear with each roll, which makes everything on the sheet valuable. One thing we had to learn, was how to tame the investigations and guide players toward building their own conclusions. If the players don’t have some ridiculous moments that feel ripped right out of the cast from Tropic Thunder, then I feel like we’ve failed. Mitch, you just ran a ton of games at Gen Con. What was the reception like for you? I’m kind of setting you up here, becau
se you had your players rolling with laughter game after game!
MITCHELL: It was hilarious all the way through every game I was apart of. People enjoyed the mature nature of the game. The fact you can relax and say a few curse words and complain about things that relate to everyone. In one game someone had an epic fight with an oversexualized gummy bear. That’s a story to tell the children right there. The ease of play lets the narrative be the main focus so its easy to pop in if you’ve played TTRPGs or not. I’ve gotten to showcase it to many people of various expertise in TTRPGs and all have left with warm fuzzies.
EGG: This award winning comic series went through 60 issues, a board game, and many Hollywood options. What about it make it right for an RPG?
PETE: Oh my god, it is SO good as an RPG! Mitch has a story for you though. Mitch, what went through your head when you got to talk to Rob Guillory (CHEW Artist/Co-Creator) about it? Why an RPG?
MITCHELL: For me, one of the reasons why I enjoy CHEW and comic books like it is the mix of the absurd and the dark. CHEW was a comic book that was given to me by my wife. She was suggested it by a comic book salesperson at Third Eye Comics in Annapolis after she described me to him. It seemed perfect. After the first volume I knew it was meant to be. I happened across Rob when I was working with Helmgast’s Troubleshooters for a potential art piece. I didn’t realize the possibility till after we chatted and immediately went back to see if he would be interested in making this a game. Rob and John got on board and it has been sweet sailing since.
EGG: That’s awesome! I read CHEW and enjoyed it, it’s the definition of Robin Williams’ storytelling. By that, I mean it starts at one place and you can only make the story leaps to the next plot point because Robin is carrying you there with his amazing sense of humor. All of that is a long way to ask, what advice do you have for GMs to make their adventures feel CHEW-esque?
PETE: Lean into the absurd. Don’t pull your punches, let them resist. Let players ask leading questions AND go there. I love how the character design already inspires players to be weird quirky characters entrusted with “important” work. The PCs feel CHEW-like if they’re using their perks (playbook abilities), quirks (food powers, weird traits), and approaches (personality traits, demeanor traits). Oh, and remind them to document weird tastes and odd interests that come about on the Corkboard, our campaign journal at the center of the table. The Corkboard is a 20×30” erasable quad-fold board that you stick post-its on it to reflect the case at hand and what leads we have from the department head who assigned it. Some of the leads are BS, some are just comical, some have some merit. PCs are also documented there so we can start building connections between them, the cases, the conspiracies, and their troubles over time. It keeps everything that could be lost on someone’s character sheet front and center so we can all draw conclusions from them. The PC related stuff quickly eclipses case related notes in campaign play and becomes a great recap tool at a glance. This all helps players focus on roleplaying their characters versus obsessing over every detail of the “case-of-the-week”.
MITCHELL: CHEW is my favorite comic book and, yeah, it has a lot of amazing humor and dark moments in it. I would say figure out what your players are comfortable with and get into the nitty gritty of the absurdity. Fight a giant Kaiju, investigate Canada for maple syrup related moose powers, go on a date with a sushi roll. The possibilities are never ending and as long as you approach it with a serious face and a hidden smile you’ll win them all. Speaking of the Corkboard, it can be any whiteboard or poster board too. You just need to be able to draw lines on it with a (dry-erase) marker. There are a bunch of great free options for online play too.
EGG: Are John Layman and Rob Guillory involved in this project? Who is working on this?
MITCHELL: John will write a foreword in the corebook. Rob is drawing the covers. They’re going to sign our Kickstarter Exclusive deluxe editions. They rock! As a stretch goal, we hope to bring them both to Gen Con next year so they can meet the CHEW RPG fans. I am really excited about this cause I want them to sign my copies of the comics!
PETE: Mitch is the Head Writer and our marketing extraordinaire. Justin Ford is our Lead Game Designer. Morgan Weeks of Earthdawn fame is our beast of an Editor. Federico Sohns of Nibiru, Dishonored, and Fallout is our Art Director and Graphic Designer. All of the amazing stuff you’re seeing is their handiwork! ENnie nominated Steve Dee rounds out our core crew, he’s been my fresh set of eyes bringing some new perspective as a creative consultant. I’m the game Publisher and Developer, so I’ve had my hands in everything! I guess you can say I play with my food.
EGG: Beyond CHEW, what else are you working on?
PETE: My last Kickstarter, Rest in Pieces, a game where you play deadbeat roommates stuck sharing a pad with the Grim Reaper is finally arriving (shipping delays from hell). So, I’m working on fulfillment to backers and distribution for that. Some people have said it’s like the lovechild of Dread and Fiasco, I love that!
MITCHELL: I’m currently finishing up Necrobiotic, which funded a few months ago on Kickstarter. It was a huge success and I hope to continue the trend of awesome content to fans. I’m also writing for Fat Magic and Queerz for their stretch goals. Queerz is out right now on Kickstarter so make sure to check them out. Finally, I have a project very dear to me which is titled Nurture Hope, a game about finding family and the experiences we share to get us there. I’m also the co-owner of Penny for a Tale which does sponsored content on our partnered channel titled Weave the Tale. So many awesome things coming in the future!
EGG: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me. Where can fans learn more about this project?
MITCHELL: Looking to you, Pete! You can also check out my twitter @mitchsbustillow as I post a lot about CHEW!
PETE: Check us out on Kickstarter! We’d really love your support! Search CHEW RPG on Facebook if you’d like to follow all the latest. You can find more about Imagining Games and all our social links at [our website].
- “A foodie crime drama RPG about cops, crooks, cooks, cannibals, and clairvoyants based on the award-winning NYTBS Image comic books!”
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